The Discovery of Cabarete by Jean Laporte as a World Class Windsurfing Spot
Text and Pictures by Jean Laporte
Cabarete Beach with local fishermen in 1984
Fall 1984, after a trip up and down the Californian coast visiting all windsurfing related businesses (shops: Clark Foam - Rainbow Fins - Santa Cruz Skateboards), I flew to Hawaii, went back to see a friend of mine that had a shop (Wind Service) in Kailua Ohahu, the windsurfing town where you could find Robby Naish's shop. I saw that the new trend was to move to Maui because the last Pam Am regatta ('83) had turned into the Pam Am Picnic Contest for lack of wind. The better winds and waves were now in Maui, Spreckellville, Kanaha and Hookipa. My friend wanted me to go in with him as a partner in a new shop in Paia next to Hookipa. Sounded interesting, but as I flew back to Canada (a 12 hours plane ride). I figured that Hawaii was a little too far from Canada.
In December '84, I was desperate to get some sailing in before the boat shows would start in Canada, being HiFly East Coast representative. So my travel agent, Johanne, suggested that I go to the Dominican Republic and that I could also bring my board and even participate in a regatta held in a place called Boca Chica. That same night I went to my world map and spent 30 minutes looking for this Dominican place she wanted to sent me to. I called her up the next morning and told her that I could not find it. She told me it was next to Haiti, on the same island. My parents had been there twice in the early 70's. I had seen a few pictures. So, I took her advise and flew to Santo Domingo's Las Americas Airport and got picked up by a friend (and HiFly dealer of mine from back in Quebec), Jean Picard. He had flown in a few days earlier. Got through customs with my 9'6" gun from my Hawaii trip.
We slept in Santo Domingo and the next morning we drove to Boca Chica where we met with the regatta organizer, Jean Michel from France, who showed us the bay where we would spend the next few weeks. But, what I saw was a giant natural swimming pool with no wind. He assures us we would get some wind by Wednesday, three days later, maybe? So I said to my friend that I did not come here 3 weeks to wait for wind. I asked Jean Michel for a map of the island and also where these supposed winds he promised us would come from. He pointed out the north-east. So, I thought we should go to the North Coast to have side shore starboard tack sailing.
We got in our van and drove to Samana at the north-east point of the island to start looking for a spot. We spent the night there, played pool, danced merengue, drank the local rum and woke up to some kids that had decided that our van needed some washing. They paid themselves with the pop and beer bottles we had gathered in our trip.
So, we started our beach hunting trip passing small towns where most of the transport was done by mules. People were waving and seemed to be very friendly. Got to a sign some 3 hours later that said Bermudez Playa Cabarete. We pulled in. It was 12:30 pm. We had stopped to pick up a few beers, Presidente was the brand. I sat on the bumper of the van sipping my 85 centavos beer - very tasty, while my friend walked away, then disappeared to the left. A lot of coco trees would block my view. While enjoying my drink I watched the white water forming on the ocean. By 1 pm it was blowing 15 knots. A few minutes later my friend came back and shouted: "There's a bay." So, we went to see it, right around the corner. By 2 pm it was blowing a steady 18 knots. Not a soul on the 3 km beach. Perfect side shore wind and a coral reef that I presumed was out about 1 km protecting the bay. The waves were breaking from 3 to 6 feet high. I said lets put the boards in the water and my friend said: "No, let's go to Sosua", this place that he had heard about.
I got up very early, went back to Cabarete, got all the stuff ready, not believing that 17 years after the sport had been invented by Schwitzer & Drake, this spot was virgin. The bay was lined up with about 35 beach houses but they looked uninhabited.
I started to talk to this fisherman or should I say a guy who owned a row boat. His boat was on the shore edge half full of sand. He and his kids were trying to empty it with waves crashing in and filling it with as much water as they got out of it. So he asked me what those things were with sails I was rigging (board & sail). I asked him about the winds, bottom of the bay, etc... I still had my doubts so I rigged up my friend's HiFly 300, a 12 foot 225 liter board with a 4.5 m2 sail, put my neoprene boots on and went out exploring the bay, a little scared that some funny fish might not like my intrusion of the bay. I did not hit bottom nor did any fish call in on me.
As it came closer to 12 pm, the same wind-wave phenomenon started to happen again. By 2 pm it was blowing 18 knots again. So, I said what the hell, I'll take my 9'6" gun out. To my surprise - great winds and I went out to the waves and jumped the first one. What a feeling. I looked back: no one in sight. But, 30 minutes later when I came back to the beach, I think half the town was there. They might have thought I had come from the ocean or some other land with my fiber glass contraption, fluorescent-colored suit and sail.
Anyway, I had been to most U.S., European and 4 other island beaches and had never seen all these conditions in one spot. Progressive winds, coral protected beach, light current that pushed you back in the bay and no large fish in the bay to nibble on your ankles.
The next day the same thing again, but then I broke my universal and the current, after 1 hour, had pushed me in to what we now call Bozo Beach.
The night was very quiet in Cabarete after 7 pm. Not one car would pass by on the only national street-road through the small beach town formally founded by people from Santiago and Moca, who converted this beach into their vacation spot after the government had built a road over the mountain from Moca to Sabaneta, 8 km east of Cabarete. Don Chi Chi Vinas, a man from Santo Domingo had 6 beach houses, one of which we rented for one month for 300 pesos ($100 US at that time).
My friend, the caretaker from our rented house, Luis Felipe, showed me a beach house that he also attended. I fell in love with it and went to Moca to meet with the owner, J.F. Rodriguez.
On the second trip in Feb. '85, I decided to put in a school "Les Alizees" (Tradewinds), where today stands "Miro on the Beach Restaurant".
As I was a reporter-photographer for Voile Libre (a French-Canadian sail board magazine), I had Tim Hall (Canadian Journalist) write an article for the magazine that sold in Montreal's Boat Show, then I called up some of my photographer-reporter friends. Within 6 months we had half the world's windsurfing community aware of Cabarete.
Now, 12 years later, with 2000 rooms, 55 restaurants, 7 windsurfing
schools, horse ranches, cave tours and mountain bike mecca of the
country, 10,000 residents from some 12 different countries, we
invite you to come and visit us here in Cabarete, Dominican Republic.
Still the best kept secret in the Caribbean.
By Jean Laporte; September 27, 1996